When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.I gave this book a chance because I read Hodge's other novel, Cruel Beauty, and thought it was pretty enjoyable. Crimson Bound has a ton of similarities to Cruel Beauty, to the point that it feels like the same overarching plot. The synopsis made the story seem promising, and I normally love a fairy tale retelling, but this book just fell flat.
Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?
Inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, Crimson Bound is an exhilarating tale of darkness, love, and redemption. (Goodreads)
Not even talking about the characters yet, the plot and the world as a whole were extremely under-developed. The introduction to the world started to build what seemed like an interesting mythology of sorts. The forestborn mark humans who are then forced to kill or die. Rachelle becomes a bloodbound this way and knows that, like all bloodbound, she is destined to eventually change into a forestborn herself. She's determined, though, that this won't stop her trying to defeat the Devourer - a dark creature determined to plunge the world into everlasting night. Unfortunately, this great set up leads to the middle of the novel where not much happens. The world, either of the humans or of the forestborn, is never explained any better. Worst of all, in my opinion, is that the end of the book turns into a ridiculously obvious Christian metaphor. I promise I'm not just biased or reading too much into this. For proof there's this quote about the name of one the mythical swords:
“Endurance. It is the sword that hopes all things, bears all things, believes all things, endures all things.”At this point, the book literally transitioned from a YA fantasy novel to a bible quote... I don't know about you, but I don't read YA fantasy for its religious merits. I'll admit there were a few plot twists that caught me off guard, these were primarily characters revealed to be someone other than they seemed. Hodge never does anything with this information, though. There's the reveal, and then everyone goes back to their usual business.
Which brings me to the characters...They are pretty mediocre overall. The protagonist, Rachelle, spends the whole book feeling unworthy and her self-esteem never improves. The lack of character growth is pretty much a theme across the board. Our two main male characters are, more or less, opposites who only exist to create a predictable, and unrealistic, love triangle with Rachelle. On one side we have Erec d'Anjou, the typical pretty boy who spends the whole book showing off and also happens to be the ruthless captain of the bloodbound. On the other side, there's Armand, the boy who lost his hands to avoid killing and is literally worshipped as a saint by the general populace. Rachelle's interest in both characters alternates between hate and undeniable love / lust multiple times throughout the novel.
Crimson Bound certainly wasn't so terrible as to be unreadable, and if you just want something to take up time it can actually be enjoyable. In comparison with Cruel Beauty, though, this was a definite disappointment.